Cristiano Ronaldo criticised Portugal’s display in the 1-1 draw with Israel and was tight-lipped on claims he deliberately got himself booked to ensure his availability for next month’s World Cup qualifying play-offs.
The Real Madrid forward will miss the last qualifier at home to rock bottom Luxembourg on Tuesday through suspension after receiving a yellow card for protesting in the dying minutes against Israel on Friday.
Real Madrid team-mate Pepe is also banned for a match where there seems little to play for because Russia and Portugal are certain to finish in the top two in Group F. Russia, who are three points ahead of Portugal, travel to fourth-placed Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
“I can’t talk about that [booking],” Ronaldo said. “FIFA is always very attentive to those situations.
“The play-off is the most important and I don’t want to be out. I will be at those two matches.”
Ronaldo said Portugal found it tough to penetrate Israel’s defence on Friday.
“We have to improve in many aspects,” he said. “Israel had two buses behind the ball and when it’s like that it’s hard to score. We were apathetic in the second half, looked sleepy even, and things did not go well.
“We lacked a bit of maturity at times, maybe it was because we had a young team with a lot of changes.”
Ricardo Costa put Portugal in front in the 26th minute, but a late blunder by keeper Rui Patricio gifted Eden Ben Basat the equaliser.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid have denied a report in the Spanish Marca sports daily that record signing Gareth Bale, already sidelined with a thigh strain, is also suffering from a slipped disc.
Medical staff had detected the problem during the Wales winger’s medical last month before he signed his contract and was presented at the Bernabeu, the paper said yesterday, without identifying the source of its information.
The slipped disc was not causing Bale any discomfort, but could require surgery at some point, Marca added.
“In response to the information that Marca has published today regarding Gareth Bale, Real Madrid would like to state the following,” the La Liga club said on their website. “The information published, claiming that the player has a slipped disc on the L5-S1 vertebrae and a bulge on two others, is completely false.
“The player does not have a slipped disc, as the club’s medical services stated clearly to the newspaper before the information was published.
“Gareth Bale has a small chronic disc bulge, which is extremely common among football players and by no means prevents him from carrying out his professional activity normally.”
Bale became the world’s most expensive player when he joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur for a fee of €100 million at the end of the transfer window. The protracted negotiations over his move disrupted his preparations for the season and although he scored on his debut in a 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal last month, he has barely played since.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti has said the thigh injury is not serious and he hopes to have Bale back after the international break for Real’s La Liga match at home to Malaga next Saturday.